The Failure of Sanctions Against Iran
(Updated September 2014)
Iran is one of the foremost enemies of the West and its ongoing nuclear program poses the most menacing and serious threat to the stability of the Middle East and the security of the world. In 2012, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano announced that "what we know [about Iran's nuclear
program] suggests the development of nuclear weapons."
The entire world seems to agree that Iran should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. Since the military
option to deter Iran is a scenario that few want or believe can work,
the principal tactic that has been adopted to prevent Iran from creating
a bomb is sanctions. Imposed either unilaterally or multilaterally, sanctions
are a peaceful and diplomatic avenue to make hardships for the regime
- both economically and politically - to put them in a situation where
a choice must be made between continuing the nuclear program or watching
their country suffer. The sanctions regime has garnered international legitimacy
since the adoption of UN Security
Council Resolution 1737 in December 2006.
Since 2006, the United States and European Union have been the biggest supporters of sanctions against
the Iranian regime and have passed numerous bills to impose ever harsher sanctions. Through their leadership, many international
shipping agencies, traders, bankers and global insurance companies have
pulled their dealings with Iran.
Unfortunately, though, these moves have so
far done little to deter Iran from its nuclear ambitions. Already in December 2008, then-Iranian Foreign
Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi's said that “Iran
will never suspend uranium enrichment,” blatantly calling out the sanctions regime as either ineffectual or lacking teeth. In June 2013, newly-elected President Hassan Rouhani - who once led Iran's nuclear negotiating team to agree to a suspension of the program in 2003 - reiterated Qashqavi's sentiment when he said that the "era [of suspending enrichment] is behind us."
The efficacy of the Iran sanctions is already under seige. In testimony before a Senate
intelligence committee in February 2012, CIA Director James Clapper
said, "The sanctions as imposed so far have not caused [Iran] to
change their behavior or their policy." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu has repeatedly said that sanctions have not done enough to affect
a change in Iran's nuclear program and in August 2013 Iranian MP Avaz Heidarpour, a member of the parliament's National Security & Foreign Policy Commission, said that "sanctions have proven ineffective."
History also works against the success of the Iran sanctions. Simon Henderson, an expert on energy policy in the Middle East, noted, “Iran is unlikely to give up its nuclear program after seeing what happened to Qaddafi and Saddam Hussein, who were both driven from power, after acceding to international pressure to give up their nuclear ambitions."
The sanctions regime, as it has been constituted, has also been doomed for failure because it has yet to be implemented correctly and unwaveringly
supported. The United States specifically has had many issues fully implementing
sanctions against Iran and, to date, no U.S. Administration has fully implemented any of the sanctions against Iran in place since 1996.
Congress has passed a number of bills, and the White House numerous executive orders, regarding Iran sanctions - - in June
2010, November 2011, February 2012, July 2012, November 2012, January 2013 and June 2013 to name the most recent - but the efficacy of these bills have been severely weakened from loopholes or waivers allowing the U.S. to delay their implementation. President Obama's Executive Order 13590, for example, was delayed more than six months out of fear it would stimulate a rise in oil prices. Likewise, in March 2012 and again in June 2013, President Obama or the State Department granted exemptions to countries, including Japan and several European nations, to allow them to continue doing limited business with Iran.
European Union sanctions have similarly fallen
on mostly deaf ears. The EU has at times been unable to completely restrain
nations from dealing with Tehran and, more importantly, Iran has been
one of Europe's major foreign oil exporters. This need for crude oil
has allowed Iran the maneuverability to get around sanctions, as profit
from sales lessens the financial impact of sanctions. In January 2012, the EU finally passed an "unprecendented" resolution
to embargo all Iranian oil and, to support its implementation, Saudi Arabia promised to fulfill Europe's gas needs.
Also minimizing the impact of sanctions are UN member
nations that originally supported Resolution
1737 in 2006 but continue to trade with Iran, proving to Iranian
leaders that UN resolutions and international threats need not be taken
seriously. Russia, China, Turkey and India,
for example, have helped the Iranians steer clear of the negative consequences
that sanctions place on its economy. In April 2012, Turkey and India
announced that they are looking to lower their trade levels with Iran,
however Russia and China both vigorously oppose sanctioning the regime.
In 2012, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that sanctions are "deeply
mistaken policy" and would be unlikely for Iran to "make any
concessions or any corrections to its policies” because of sanctions.
Even with the looming threat of a nuclear Iran, China and other Asian countries continue to support Iran through increasing oil purchases. In August 2014 it was reported that Asian countries increased oil purchases from Iran by 29.4% in July 2014 compared to purchases in July 2013. China is the largest consumer of Iranian oil, with 80% of it's Iranian imports consisting of crude oil. Despite this fact, Iran's largest customers (China, India, Japan, and South Korea) purchased 1.029 million barrels per day of Iranian crude oil, the lowest total number in 7 months. July 2014 marked China's seventh straight month of increasing trade volume with Iran.
Developments in the Failure of Sanctions:
(Listed in Reverse Chronological Order)
-Japan releases $1 billion in frozen Iranian oil assets to Iran. This payment represents the first 2 payments of the $2.8 billion that Iran was promised during the interim agreement.
-The United States imposed a fresh round of sanctions on Iranian companies and individuals that the US believes have been assisting Iran to develop nuclear weaponization capabilities. These companies include: Asia Bank, Meraj Air, Caspian Air, Faylaca Petroleum, The Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, Nuclear Science and Technology Research Institute, Mandegar Baspar Kimiya Co, and Jahan Tech Rooyan Pars. In response to these sanctions, the Iranian government has expressed anger and has said that they will bypass the sanctions, stating that they are illegal and the Iranian government does not recognize the sanctions as legitimate. (Reuters, September 3)
-The IAEA's monthly report for July showed that Iran was in fact taking the appropriate steps towards scaling down it's nuclear capabilities. (IAEA, July)
Iran and Russia have made progress towards an oil-for-goods deal sources said would be worth up to $20 billion, which would enable Tehran to boost vital energy exports in defiance of Western sanctions. The barter arrangement that would see Iranian oil exchanged for industrial goods including metals and food but o military equipment. The deal was expected to be done in stages with an initial $6 billion to $8 billion tranche.
(Reuters, April 2)
- Iran's oil exports have stayed above levels allowed under Western sanctions for a fifth straight month. Under the deal to ease some restrictions on the Islamic Republic, Iran's exports are supposed to be held at an average 1 million barrels per day for the six months to July 20. But shipments to Asia have topped that level at least since November, according to ship tracking data.
(Reuters, March 26)
- Vann Van Diepen, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Non-Proliferation, said that Iran has pursued a longstanding effort to buy banned components for its nuclear and missile programmes in recent months, during a period when it struck an interim deal with major powers to limit its disputed atomic activity. Iran was still "very actively" creating front companies and engaging in other activity to conceal procurements. Such trade would breach a 2006 U.N. embargo banning the provision by any nation to Iran of materials related to its nuclear and missile development work.
(Reuters, March 16)
- 85 U.S. Senators signed a letter to President Obama urging the continuance of the existing sanctions on Iran and expressing their concern if Iran rejects an agreement to bring to an end its nuclear weapons ambitions. The letter was initiated by Sens. Robert Menendez - the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Chuck Schumer - the third highest-ranking Democrat, and four others, including three Republicans.
(U.S. Senate, March 16)
- Iran's oil exports peaked at a one-year high over January and February 2014, showing that the thaw in relations with the West is boosting the troubled economy of the Islamic Republic. Though bans of importing oil in the European Union remain in place, Asian oil buyers are getting more comfortable buying Iranian oil because of decreased political risks. India's Iran oil imports jumped by 175,000 barrels a day. In February, imports of Iranian oil surged in Japan and South Korea, by 155,000 barrels a day and 145,000 barrels a day, respectively.
(Wall Street Journal, March 14)
- As Western sanctions enforcement against Iran eased in light of the ongoing nuclear negotiations, the Islamic Republic's main oil and gas shipping company is set to boost its fleet. In a sign of renewed optimism within Iran's battered oil industry, the National Iranian Tanker Co. has also made contact with European oil and shipping companies to resume business with them. NIT's managing director Ali Akbar Safaei said the resumption of trade with European companies would depend on a full lifting of sanctions, which still include an EU ban on Iranian crude-oil imports.
(Wall Street Journal, March 13)
- On February 11, Iran's atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi announced that the Islamic Republic has developed a new generation of centrifuges which are 15 times more powerful than those currently being used to enrich uranium. "We unveiled a new generation of centrifuges that surprised the Westerners," he said, quoted by the state broadcaster. Iran said the development was not in violation of an agreement between Iran and six world powers that has imposed curbs on Tehranís nuclear drive.
(Agence France-Presse, February 11)
- Since the West reached a landmark deal with Iran on its controversial nuclear program in late November 2013, many Western companies are gearing up do big business with the Islamic Republic. Although none of the sanctions have yet been lifted, droves of Western business people are already flocking to Tehran. Iran has the world's fourth-largest known oil reserves, and the second-largest gas reserve - business deals worth billions can be made there.
(Der Spiegel, January 2)
- According to data from China's General Administration of Customs, Iran delivered 538,513 barrels per day (bpd) of crude to China in November 2013. This represented an increase of more than 100% as China had imported only 249,848 bpd in October 2013.
(Press-TV, December 23)
- Speaking to a group of Iranian students in Tehran, Iran's Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, warned that Iran can and will end the suspension of its 20% nuclear enrichment if the West defies the Geneva interim deal signed in late November. "The structure of our nuclear program has been maintained," said Zarif. "And the 20% enrichment can be resumed in less than twenty-four hours."
(FARS News, December 18)
- Israeli security sources said that the Obama administration conceded that the value of economic sanctions relief to Iran granted by the interim nuclear deal is closer to $20 billion. The administration originally said the sanctions relief would be relatively low, around $6-7 billion. However, during the negotiations the U.S. backtracked from this opening position and approved much more significant relief in a wide variety of areas: commerce in gold, the Iranian petrochemical industry, the car industry and replacement parts for civilian aircraft. Thus, according to the Israeli sources, the sanctions relief is now worth approximately $20-25 billion.
(Haaretz, December 11)
- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry appealed to the U.S. Congress not to impose new sanctions on Iran while the United States seeks to negotiate a comprehensive agreement to curb Tehran's nuclear program. "We are asking you to give our negotiators and our experts the time and the space to do their jobs and that includes asking you while we negotiate that you hold off imposing new sanctions," Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "I am not saying never ... If this doesn't work, we are coming back and asking you for more. I am just saying not right now," he added. "This is a very delicate diplomatic moment."
(Chicago Tribune, December 10)
- The Obama administration is prepared to allow Iran to engage in a "limited enrichment program" if Tehran holds up its end of the international agreement, particularly with regards to curtailing its nuclear capabilities under stringent global oversight. "We are prepared to negotiate a strictly limited enrichment program," national security spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement. Wendy Sherman, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, noted that in a comprehensive agreement the United States "would consider a limited, modest enrichment program, if it is attached to real, practical needs." Sherman also stressed that the "sanctions that we are suspending are quite limited, quite targeted and all reversible."
(CNN, December 4)
- Not even a week after an interim deal with Iran was agreed upon offering sanctions relief, foreign automakers are expressing willingness to return to Iran's auto market. Specifically, French car manufacturers Peugeot and Renault have already held meetings with the Iranian Minister of Industry, Mining and Commerce and hashed out an initial agreement to return to Iran.
(ISNA News Agency, December 2)
- The P5+1 and Iran reached a set of initial understandings that halts the progress of Iran's nuclear program for at least six months and rolls it back in key respects. The details of the deal include: Iran has committed to halt enrichment above 5%, neutralize its stockpile of near-20% uranium, halt progress on its enrichment capacity, halt progress on activities at the Arak reactor and provide daily access by IAEA inspectors at the Natanz and Fordow sites. In return for these steps, the international community will not impose new nuclear-related sanctions on Iran for at least six months and will suspend certain sanctions on gold and precious metals, Iran's auto sector, and Iran's petrochemical exports. An additional $6-7 billion in sanctions relief is also provided in the agreement.
(White House, November 23)
- Following a meeting with President Obama, a bipartisan group of U.S. Congressmen from the top foreign policy and national security committees agreed to hold off on a vote to impose new sanctions on Iran until after the next round of nuclear talks in Geneva, set for the last week in November. A different group of Senators, however, led by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL). proposed a stricter sanctions bill, which would take aim at Iran's remaining oil sales, as an amendment to the military bill.
(New York Times, November 19)
- In Israel for a three-day visit, French President Francois Hollande assured Israel that France would continue to oppose an easing of economic sanctions against Iran until it was convinced Tehran had given up any pursuit of nuclear weapons. Hollande also reaffirmed France's conditions for an interim deal: put all Iranian nuclear installations under international surveillance, suspend 20 percent uranium enrichment, reduce existing enriched uranium stocks and stop construction of a heavy water plant at Arak that could potentially produce weapons-grade plutonium. "These are the points that are essential to us to underpin a deal," Hollande said.
(Yediot Ahronoth, November 17)
- The White House and State Department blasted Congressional efforts to place new sanctions on Iran as negotiations continued on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. Officials warned that spoiling diplomatic talks with Iran would be a "march to war" - "It is important to understand that if pursuing a resolution diplomatically is disallowed or ruled out, what options, then, do we and our allies have to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon?" said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. "The American people do not want a march to war." State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki drove home the point - "Putting new sanctions in place would be a mistake while we're still determining a diplomatic route forward."
(Foreign Policy, November 12)
- On the eve of a new round of talks with Iran, a senior Obama administration official said that the United States was prepared to offer Iran limited relief from economic sanctions if Tehran agreed to temporarily halt its nuclear program. The official said that the suspension of Iran's nuclear efforts, perhaps for six months, would give negotiators time to pursue a comprehensive and far more challenging agreement. Israel, for its part, rejects the proposal. "Israel thinks this is a bad deal and will oppose it strongly," an Israeli official said.
(New York Times, November 6)
- Asia's top buyers of Iranian crude oil have reduced their purchases from the Islamic Republic by 11.5 percent so far this year, and shipments are set to fall even further by the end of 2013. China, India and South Korea - three of Tehran's top four clients - have rebuffed Iranian offers for more oil, industry sources said.
(Reuters, October 31)
- The White House hosted a meeting of aides to Senate committee leaders seeking to persuade lawmakers to hold off on a package of tough new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program. The Obama administration hopes for another delay on a sanctions bill that had been expected to come to a vote in the Senate Banking Committee last month but was held back after appeals from Obama to let negotiations on Iran's nuclear program get under way first.
(Reuters, October 24)
- In the wake of a first round of nuclear diplomacy with Iran, the Obama administration is weighing a proposal to ease sanctions on Tehran by offering it access to billions of dollars in frozen funds. The ease would only be implemented if the Iranian government takes specific steps to curb its nuclear program.
(New York Times, October 17)
- A bipartisan group of ten U.S. senators sent a letter to President Barack Obama signalling their openness to suspending the implementation of new sanctions on Iran if the Islamic Republic takes significant steps to slow its nuclear program. The letter urged Obama to consider a "suspension-for-suspension" agreement, in which Iran suspends uranium enrichment and Washington suspends the implementation of new sanctions.
(Voice of America, October 14)
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the leaders of Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron, and France, President Francois Hollande, to urge them not to ease sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program ahead of talks between Iran and world powers. Netanyahu told Cameron and Hollande that the sanctions were close to achieving their goal. "Until Iran dismantles its military nuclear program, sanctions must not be eased - on the contrary. Only the pressure brought Iran to this point, and only the continuation of pressure and its strengthening can bring them to dismantle their nuclear program," Netanyahu was quoted as saying.
(Reuters, October 12)
- Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told a conference for strategic studies that over the last 18-24 months the international sanctions have caused about $100 billion in damage to Iran’s economy, which has an annual $450 billion GDP. In addition, he said inflation in Iran is currently running at 40% a year, the unemployment rate is between 25%-30%, the rial, Iran’s currency, has been devalued by 180% and the country has a negative economic growth of 5.4%. Steinitz said that the sanctions have effectively cut Iran off from the world’s financial system and that at this rate, he predicted the Iranian economy will collapse in another year-and-a-half.
(Jerusalem Post, October 7)
- Officials reponsible for monitoring the U.N. sanctions regime against Iran say that the Islamic Republic has intensified its efforts to circumvent restrictions by strengthening its trading ties with a number of neighboring countries, including Turkey, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates. The government has stepped up efforts to acquiring gold and foreign currency that can be used to shore up the rial. For example, Iranian bankers have successfully exploited loopholes in the U.N. sanctions to channel billions of dollars worth of gold from Turkey to the Central Bank of Iran. Iran has also exploited its close relationship with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to acquire foreign currency through a network of Iranian money-changers who are working in major towns and cities in Iraq.
(Wall Street Journal, October 2)
- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Ambassador Michael Oren met with members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, thanking them for their support of bills sanctioning Iran for its nuclear program and urging them to continue to pressure the Islamic Republic. "[Netanyahu] just said basically that he believes in the importance that there be cost if Iran continues its nuclear program," Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) said. "What we're doing now he strongly thanked us for and said it's having an impact and making it possible for us to negotiate." Committee chair Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said in a statement, "Our resolve to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability remains unchanged and we will not hesitate from proceeding with further sanctions and other options to protect US interests and ensure regional security. While we welcome Iran's diplomatic engagement, it cannot be used to buy time, avoid sanctions, and continue the march toward nuclear weapons capability."
(Times of Israel, October 1)
- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, tapped by President Obama to lead diplomatic efforts with Iran over its nuclear program, confirmed that the United States will not ease sanctions against the Islamic Republic until "it is clear that a very verifiable, accountable, transparent process is in place, whereby we know exactly what Iran is gonna be doing with its program." Kerry said that the first steps to such a process should include the immediate opening of the Fordow nuclear plant for inspection as well as the signing of protocols of the international community regarding inspections.
(CBS News, September 29)
- According to a Chinese Customs release, in August 2013 China imported 440,000 barrels of oil from Iran - an 18% increase over the same period last year.
(FARS News Agency, September 26)
- India's oil ministry announnced that it wants to raise imports of Iranian crude oil - even though U.S. sanctions call for a cut - and argued its case in a memorandum released ahead of a meeeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Oil accounts for about a third of India's total imports and higher dollar prices combined with a rupee near all-time lows have increased its cost, adding pressure to a bloated current account deficit.
(Reuters, September 23)
- In a setback to Western efforts to isolate the Iranian regime over its nuclear program, the General Court in Brussels, the European Union's second-highest tribunal, ruled that the EU should lift sanctions imposed against seven Iranian companies. The court ruled that the bloc wrongly imposed sanctions against these companies as part of its efforts to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The companies are: Post Bank Iran, Iran Insurance Company, Good Luck Shipping, Export Development Bank of Iran, Persia International Bank, Iranian Offshore Engineering and Construction Co and Bank Refah Kargaran. "We are very disappointed by the court's decision," a U.S. Treasury spokesman said in a statement. "The evidence linking these banks to Iran's illicit nuclear activities is clear and strong, and no financial institution anywhere should allow these Iranian banks to transact with them."
(New York Times, September 6)
- Estimates provided by a senior U.S. official showed that the American government has concluded that nearly half of Iran's monthly earnings from crude oil exports are accumulating in accounts overseas because of sanctions that restrict Tehran's access to the money. The estimates show that about $1.5 billion in crude oil revenues is piling up in restricted foreign accounts every month. Crude revenues overall averaged about $3.4 billion monthly in the first half of year, according to the assessment. That means Iran is not able to either spend or repatriate about 44 percent of its crude oil income.
(Associated Press, August 30)
- Following the inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who replaces outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 76 members of the U.S. Senate sent a letter urging President Obama to step up sanctions and bring "a renewed sense of urgency" to stopping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The letter notes overtures by Rohani to make more transparent the Iranian nuclear program that he insists is peaceful, but it also demands that Iran agree to remove its stockpiles of 20 percent enriched uranium. Rohani has categorically refused to suspend uranium enrichment. The letter was initiated by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
(The Telegraph, August 3)
- By a vote of 400-20, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R.850 - Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013. The bill would hit Iran with the toughest sanctions yet over its nuclear program by blocking Iran from exporting any oil abroad. International sanctions have already cut Iran's oil sales in half, but lawmakers wanted to send Tehran a strong signal following the election of Hassan Rouhani. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), a co-sponsor of the measure, said "today the House took a critical step toward crippling this regime to prevent a nuclear Iran and dire security consequences."
(Los Angeles Times, July 31)
- Despite a report by the UN Panel of Experts on Iran that said Iran's ballistic missile tests of July 2012 qualified as a violation of UN restrictions, the 15-member UN Security Council failed to reach a unanimous decision to declare the tests illegal. The division, led by Russia and China, effectively rules out any expansion of sanctions against Tehran over the tests for the time being. As long as the sanctions committee remains divided, it will be difficult for the Security Council to add names of any Iranian individuals or entities linked to the missile tests.
(Chicago Tribune, July 15)
- Under the patronage of Federal Environment Minister Peter Altmaier and Federal Minister of Economics Philipp Rösler, Germany is planning to hold a July conference on "Energy Security," among whose speakers are Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Ghasemi, a general of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Ghasemi will speak despite the fact that the EU has imposed sanctions against Iran's energy sector and the Iranian Ministry of Petroleum is as an entity on the EU sanctions list.
(Commentary, July 9)
- Two top Chinese shipping lines - China Shipping Container Lines Co. and COSCO Container Lines - severed ties with Iran in compliance with the stringent new round of Western sanctions that came into effect July 1. The U.S. National Defense Authorization Act blacklists Iran's shipping, energy and port management sectors. Since much of Iran's imports, including food and consumer goods, arrive by ship, the latest set of sanctions are likely to worsen an already deep economic crisis and leave the country increasingly dependent on front companies and overland routes.
(Reuters, July 1)
- Communications satellite service provider Intelsat took several Iranian channels off the air on July 1 to comply with a new round of American sanctions targeting Iran’s state-run radio and TV company, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), and its president, Ezzatollah Zarghami. The Iranian channels reportedly taken off the air includes Press TV, Hispan TV and Al-Alam as well as IRIB 1 and 2 and Sahar TV. Bijan Nobaveh, a member of the cultural commission in Iran's parliament, described the move as illegal, illogical and biased.
(Asharq Alawsat, July 2)
- Yukiyo Amano, the U.N. nuclear agency chief, told Reuters that sanctions have been unsuccessful in slowing down Iran's progress in expanding its nuclear program. Amano said he remained committed to dialogue with Iran to address the IAEA's concerns about what it calls the possible military dimensions to the country's nuclear program. "There is a steady increase of capacity and production [in Iran's nuclear program]," Amano said. Asked if steps aimed at making Iran curb its atomic activity were slowing it down, he said: "I don't think so ... I don't see any impact."
(Reuters, June 17)
- South Korea's government said the country's top two shippers - Hanjin Shipping Company and Hyundai Merchant Marine Company - had ended direct shipments to Iran in May. The two shippers will also cease trans-shipments of freight ultimately destined for, or originating in, Iran from June 15 ahead of a new round of sanctions on Iran approved by U.S. President Barack Obama. Hanjin and Hyundai, the only two South Korean shippers that were still dealing with Iran, both confirmed that they are cooperating in efforts against Iran's nuclear programme.
(Reuters, June 11)
- Maryland businessman Nader Modanlo was convicted by jury for illegally facilitating a satellite deal between Iran and Russia that helped the Islamic Republic launch a satellite of its own for the first time. Modanlo was convicted of conspiring to violate the government’s long-standing embargo that prohibits U.S. citizens from directly or indirectly doing business with Iran. Prosecutors said Modanlo tried to get around the embargo by using a front company in Switzerland to conceal the involvement of Iran and funnel money to his bank account.
(Washington Post, June 10)
- The U.S. State Department exempted several countries, including China and India, from financial sanctions targeting Iranian oil sales because those countries have continued to reduce their purchases of Iranian crude oil. Under a law passed in 2011, the U.S. can sanction any firms that buy Iranian crude, but it can also grant exemptions from sanctions to countries which have made a "significant reduction" in imports from Iran. In March 2013, the U.S. gave exceptions to Japan and 10 European countries. This round of exemptions went to China, India, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Taiwan.
(Wall Street Journal, June 5)
- U.S. President Barack Obama approved a new Executive Order to further tighten American sanctions on Iran and isolate the Iranian government for its continued failure to meet its international obligations. This new action targets Iran's currency by authorizing the imposition of sanctions on foreign financial institutions that knowingly conduct or facilitate significant transactions for the purchase or sale of the Iranian rial. This marks the first time that trade in the rial has been targeted directly for sanctions. The order also authorizes the imposition of new sanctions against those who knowingly engage in significant financial or other transactions for the sale, supply, or transfer to Iran of significant goods or services used in connection with Iran's automotive sector, which builds on the sanctions in the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 that targets Iranian shipping and energy sectors.
(White House, June 3)
- Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird announced on May 29 that Canada will immediately halt all bilateral trade with Iran to protest the Islamic Republic's nuclear ambitions and abysmal human rights record. "The absence of progress ... leads Canada to ban effectively immediately all imports and exports from Iran," Baird told reporters. In 2012, bilateral trade between Canada and Iran was worth around $130 million USD.
(Reuters, May 29)
- The U.S. Senate unanimously approved simple resolution 65 calling on the government to support the full implementation of United States and international sanctions on Iran and urging the President to continue to strengthen enforcement of sanctions legislation. The resolution, which passed on a vote of 99-0, also condemned inciteful statements made by Iranian government officials and reiterated U.S. support for Israel if a military confrontation with Iran were to occur.
(Library of Congress, May 23)
- On May 22, the IAEA - the UN's nuclear watchdog - released their quarterly report on the Iranian nuclear program and detailed rapid Iranian progress in two programs that the West fears are geared toward making nuclear weapons. The report says that Tehran has upgraded its uranium enrichment facilities by installing close to 700 high-tech centrifuges which can produce the core of nuclear weapons. It also said Tehran had added hundreds of older-generation machines at its main enrichment site to bring the total number to more than 13,000. The report also noted that Iran has been paving over areas at the Parchin site where alleged experiments with test blasts took place.
(Washington Post, May 22)
- According to customs data released by South Korea, the country has reduced the volume of its oil imports from Iran by 50%.
(Radio Farda, May 16)
- Iran has seen an increase of 46% in foreign investment compared to last year, with the majority of these foreign investments in the mining sector, which includes mining, oil and gas. On the other hand, Iran also reports that sanctions have had a 20-30% impact on the economy. Furthermore, Gholam Reza Mesbahi Moghaddam, head of the Majlis Budget and Planning Committee, said that the Iranian government agrees with halving projected oil revenues in the 2013/14 budget. That budget was based on the export of 2.3 million barrels per day (bpd), but Iran's sales fell to about half that amount.
(Iran News Network; FA News; MEHR News, April 1)
- A partial tally of the business between U.S. companies and Iran for 2012 found a distrubingly high amount of trade. US-listed companies made more than $540 million in gross revenue and $15.5 million in profits from their business with Iran in 2012 — and that's only counting 30 or so large companies that made disclosures since mid-February 2013. While the numbers underscore the difficulty of maintaining tight sanctions in a global economy they also hide a lot of nuance and variation: Companies based outside the US accounted for 99% of the revenue and three-quarters of the profit; $414 million in revenue came from Statoil ASA, the Norwegian oil and gas company that works with the National Iranian Oil Company; biggest disclosure by a US company came from auto-parts maker TRW Automotive Holdings, which said it collected $8.3 million in revenue and $377,000 in profits from non-US subsidiaries that sold products to Iranian companies. Dell, the Texas computer company, disclosed a whopping $169.90 in revenue from Iran.
(Quartz, March 28)
- Trade between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Iran fell by nearly a third from 2011 to 2012 as Western sanctions finally began to affect this main avenue of trade for the Islamic Republic. Iran and the UAE have been close trade partners for decades. While banks in the UAE were slow to initally follow suit with sanctions, given their dependence on the strong revenue stream during the tough times since the financial crisis triggered a collapse in the real estate markets of Dubai and then Abu Dhabi, years of U.S. lobbying has led to more strictly enforced regulations.
(Financial Times, March 26)
- While South Korea announced that it has dramatically decreased the pace of its crude-oil imports from Iran, Chinese officials say that their Iranian oil imports continue unabated. Imports of oil by Southe Korea were down 30% in February 2013 compared with February 2012 and down 25% versus January 2013, according to preliminary data from state-run Korea National Oil Corp. China, meanwhile, saw its imports from Iran rise by 2.7% in the first two months of 2013 after rising by 74% on year to 2 million tons.
(Wall Street Journal, March 22)
- Fifty-six members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Secretary of State John Kerry urging them to take action against Iranian reflagging, a tactic that Iran uses to disguise the origin of vessels carrying illicit goods to and from Iran. The letter, sponsored by Reps. Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), calls on State and Treasury to "seriously consider sanctioning registries that knowingly participate in efforts to reflag oil tankers and cargo vessels" operated by designated Iranian companies.
(House of Representatives, March 13)
- According to a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iranian oil shipments advanced 13 percent in February 2013 even as the U.S. implemented additional sanctions complicating sales from the Islamic Republic. Countries purchased 1.28 million barrels a day from Iran that month, compared with an 1.13 million barrels daily in January 2013. "The only thing clear is that the current stalemate between Iran and the West is unsustainable," the IEA said in the report. "Sooner or later, something has to give."
(Bloomberg News, March 13)
- An investigation conducted by the federal prosecutor's office of Germany revealed that Iranian front companies based in Istanbul had transported 941 items with nuclear applications through Turkey. According to the report, German police detected that materials with nuclear applications obtained in Germany and India were transported to the Mitech company in Iran through Turkey by an Iranian national, Hossein Tanideh. Mitech is under US and European Union-imposed sanctions. Turkish police found out that 91 items with nuclear applications were sent, on seven occasions, to Iran from Germany via Turkey, while 856 nuclear items were sent, on four occasions, from India to Iran via Turkey.
(Today's Zaman, March 12)
- Trade between Iran and China dropped by 18 percent in 2012, to $37 billion, due to a number of banking sanctions imposed on the Islamic republic. "Iran-China trade fell to $37 billion in 2012 from $45 billion in 2011," Assadollah Asgaroladi, director of the Sino-Iranian Chamber of Commerce, was quoted as saying. "Iranian exporters and importers who are seeking increase in trade volume are facing banking problems."
- A Chinese businessman indicted in the United States over sales of missile parts to Iran is still making millions of dollars from the trade, say security officials who monitor compliance with Western and U.N. sanctions. Businessman Li Fangwei has earned at least $10 million from illegal sales to Iran since his indictment by the New York County District Attorney in 2009. Li's alleged activities may point to Iran's ability to circumvent Western sanctions. A U.S. State Department official said Li had been sanctioned because of his "proliferation to Iran" since 2009.
- Bipartisan legislation was introduced to both Houses of the U.S. Congress calling for greatly expanded sanctions on Iran, amounting to what would potentially be a commercial trade embargo if fully carried out. The measure looks to build on existing laws that restrict business dealings with Iran, widen the list of blacklisted Iranian companies and individuals and potentially block Iran's access to foreign bank assets held in euros. The legislation - called the Nuclear Iran Prevention Act - would also penalize foreign companies and individuals that violate the American sanctions by threatening them with restrictions on doing business with the United States.
(New York Times,
- A bipartisan group of 36 U.S. Senators - including Diane Feinstein [D-CA] and Marco Rubia [R-FL] - wrote a strongly-worded letter to the European Council, urging the bank to deny Iran access to its Euro-denominated foreign exchange reserves by stopping the Islamic Republic from using the "Target2" clearing system. "We are writing to request your immediate support in close a significant loophole in US-EU sanctions policy," said the letter. "We strongly urge you to take all necessary measures to immediately cut off Iran's ability to use its foreign-held euros by prohibiting direct or indirect access to Target2 services by or on behalf of accounts owned or controlled by the Government of Iran or its affiliates. We are concerned that these euro conversions in turn free up significant funds to finance Iranian imports, stabilise Iran's monthly budget and allows the regime to continue to engage in sanctionable and illicit activities."
- According to details released from a confidential report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran has already begun installing roughly 180 advanced IR-2M centrifuges at its main uranium enrichment plant in Natanz. While the centrifuges were not yet operational, such machines could enable Iran to significantly speed up its accumulation of material that could be used to make a nuclear weapon. Iran alerted the IAEA in January 2013 of its intention to upgrade the Natanz enrichment facilities.
- According to a Gallup poll conducted in Iran during December 2012, a majority of Iranians (56%) say sanctions the United Nations, the U.S., and Western Europe imposed on the Islamic Republic have hurt their personal livelihoods a great deal. However, a majority of Iranians (63%) are also seemingly willing to pay the high price of sanctions and say that Iran should continue to develop its nuclear program, even given the scale of sanctions. One in two Iranians supported their country developing its own nuclear power capabilities for nonmilitary uses. Only 1 in 10 Iranians says their own government is most to blame for sanctions.
- Iran announced the purchase of two oil supertankers from China, each having the cargo carrying capacity of 2 million barrels of crude oil, and three other smaller ships which all joined the Iranian fleet at the begining of 2013. The Atlantis and the Infinity oil tankers were part of a $ 1.2 million agreement between Iran and Chinese shipbuilding companies signed in 2009, under which 12 oil tankers are to be built.
(Iranian Students' News Agency,
- With sanctions still hurting Iranian oil exports to the West, the Islamic Republic and Pakistan announced the start of construction on a gas pipeline scheduled to be completed by December 2015. The Iran-Pakistan pipeline, projected to cost $1.2-1.5 billion, will export 21.5 million cubic meters of Iranian natural gas per day to Pakistan when it comes on stream. Iran has pledged to secure $500 million to complete the Pakistani section of the project and the rest will be provided by the Pakistani government.
- A European Union court ruled that the EU should lift sanctions it imposed on one of Iran's largest banks, the second such judgment that could complicate Western efforts to increase pressure on the Islamic Republic. In its ruling, the EU's General Court said the EU had failed to provide sufficient evidence that Bank Saderat was involved in Iran's nuclear program when the bloc targeted it with sanctions starting in July 2010. Earlier, the court issued a similar ruling about of Bank Mellat, the biggest private sector lender in Iran.
- In a letter dated January 23, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) informed the United Nations that it was planning to upgrade its uranium enrichment plant at Natanz by installing more advanced centrifuges, the IR2M. The new centifuge can enrich two or three times faster than the present equipment being used by Tehran, according to the Associated Press. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sent a letter to member states saying Iran had informed the agency of its plans to use the improved machines at its fuel enrichment plant in Natanz.
(BBC News, January 31)
- Industry sources, quoting shipping and customs data, said that Iran's crude oil exports in December 2012 were at their highest level since the imposition of European Union sanctions on Iran's energy sector in Summer 2012. Experts warned that increased demand from China, India and Japan have allowed the Islamic Republic to boost its exports. Overall, Western sanctions against Iran have succeeded in halving Iran's oil exports from 2011 to 2012, causing the loss of billions of dollars in revenue, however there is no consensus whether the sanctions are actually affecting Iran's nuclear program. "We continue to engage in close consultations with our international partners on U.S. sanctions with the objective of maintaining pressure on Iran to comply with its international obligations," said U.S. State Department spokesman John Finn.
- Japanese police arrested two men and one woman for sending money to an Iranian shipping company in violation of sanctions against the Islamic Republic. The funds are believed to have been wired to a firm that is involved with Iran's nuclear weapons program. The three suspects, who work for the Ben Line Agencies Japan shipping company, have denied the charges that they sent 14 million yen (~$160,000) to a Singapore-based company with known connections to the government-backed Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL). Investigators say these are Japan’s first arrests made in relation to sanctions on Iran.
(Japan Daily Press,
- Vali Nasr, dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington D.C., said during the World Economic Forum in Davos that the sanctions regime against Iran over its nuclear activity "really has reached its end." He later added, "you really are looking at a scenario where Iran is going to rush very quickly towards nuclear power, because they also think, like North Korea, that (then) you have much more leverage to get rid of these sanctions."
- Adam Szubin, director the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which supervises American enforcement of sanctions on Iran, said that despite the economic sanctions levied against the Islamic Republic, Tehran is still finding some ways to bypass them. Szubin noted that the Iranians were using private exchange houses and trading companies in other countries, masking transactions with fake identities and relying on the paperless practice known as hawala, common in parts of the Middle East and Asia, in which money is transferred informally and often illegally through trustworthy couriers. “This is an evolving and emerging threat,” Szubin said. “Two years ago we saw little of this because Iran was able to find banks that were able to handle its business.”
(New York Times,
- Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz visited Washington to press senior US officials to lay out a tougher line on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities. The time has come for President Barack Obama to give Iran a “very clear ultimatum, very clear deadline combined with a very credible also military threat” Steinitz told a group of reporters before planned meetings with Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and other administration officials. Steinitz said he would discuss with Geithner and other White House and State Department officials what Israel perceives as loopholes in sanctions and Iran’s efforts to subvert legal restrictions.
- Gholam Reza Kateb, head of the Iranian parliament’s budget committee, said oil exports have dropped 40 percent in the last nine months and revenues from the oil and gas exports have dropped by 45 percent. He said the reduction is in direct correlation to the sanctions levied on Iran over its nuclear program. Despite the significant hit to Iran's economy, its leaders have given no indication that they might give in to the pressure and scale back their nuclear development program.
- On January 3, US President Barack Obama signed into law the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, including additional sanctions levied against Iranian energy, shipping and shipbuilding sectors as well as Iran's ports, blacklisting them as "entities of proliferation concern." The bill, HR 4310, passed both houses of the Congress in December 2012 and was signed by President Obama without amendment on any of the Iran-related sections. The bill also imposes penalties on anyone caught supplying precious metals to Iran and sanctions on Iranian broadcasting. Additionally, the billI targets the state broadcast network, called the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, which the law says violated human rights by broadcasting forced confessions and show trials. The law orders the U.S. Treasury to slap sanctions on Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting and its president, Ezzatollah Zargami.
(Wall Street Journal,
- The U.S. put new sanctions on Iran that targeted
a handful of companies and individuals purportedly giving materials
and technology to Iran's nuclear program. Among those targeted are
Professor Fereydoun Abbasi Davani, who heads the Iran Atomic Energy
Organization. The companies on this sanctions list are: FaraTech,
the Neda Industrial Group, Aria Nikan Marine Industry, Towled Abzar
Boreshi, Iran Pouya, Terjerat Gostar, and Tarh O Palayesh.
- Canada amended its Special Economic Measures: Iran
Regulations to list an additional 98 entities associated with the
Iranian regime as designated persons. The amendment increases the
pressure on entities that support Iran's nuclear program including
but not limited to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Basij
paramilitary organization. These measures also target economic sectors
that indirectly support or provide funding to the Iranian nuclear
program, such as oil and gas, mining, metals, and shipping. Finally,
the amended regulations help further to isolate Iran from the global
News, December 11)
- The U.S. Senate unanimously approved new sanctions
on Iran's energy, port, shipping and non-shipping sectors in yet another
move to pressure Tehran over its nuclear program. "We must be
clear to the Iranians that toughing it out and waiting it out is not
an option, that it will only get worse," said Democratic Senator
Robert Menendez, who co-sponsored the sanctions bill with Republic
Senator Mark Kirk and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman. The sanctions
include measures aimed at stopping the flow of gold from Turkey to
Iran but maintains exemptions for countries that have yet to make
significant cuts to their purchases of Iranian crude oil.
- In late November, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister
and top economic policy make Ali Babacan announced that his country
has sidestepped US and European sanctions against Iran by paying for
natural gas imports with gold. "In essence, gold exports [to
Iran] end up like payments for our natural gas purchases," Mr.
Babacan said. "Turkey is depositing the payment for the gas we
purchase from Iran to Iran's account in Turkey." Western sanctions
against the Iranian energy sector bans the Islamic Republic from receiving
payments for gas exports in dollars or euros and Turkey's announcement
sheds light on how countries breach the international sanctions regime.
Street Journal, November 23)
- The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions
on 17 Iranian individuals and entities involved in the government's
censorship activities and support for terrorism. They include Ali
Fazli, deputy commander of the Basig militia that has attacked websites;
Reza Taghipour, minister of communications and information technology,
who was responsible for jamming satellite television and blocking
internet connectivity; and Rasool Jalili, who was involved in trying
to obtain Internet monitoring equipment. Iran's Center to Investigate
Organized Crime was also sanctioned for helping the government censor
websites and identify opposition activists, while the Ministry of
Culture and Islamic Guidance as well as the Iranian Press Supervisory
Board were also sanctioned.
- The European Union banned the import of Iranian
natural gas into EU countries in an effort to raise the pressure on
Iran in hope of enticing the country to come to the negotiating table
ready to discuss its nuclear program in earnest. This latest step
is part of a new round of sanctions against Iran's banking, shipping,
and industrial sectors. In the announcement, EU ministers expressed
"serious and deepening concerns" over Iran's nuclear progress
and underlined that "the restrictive measures agreed [to] are
aimed at affecting Iran's nuclear program and revenues of the Iranian
regime to fund its program and are not aimed at the Iranian people."
- A leading European satellite provider took 19 Iranian
television and radio broadcasters off the air due to EU sanctions
punishing human rights abusers.
- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected
that Iran will be able to lower its currently high inflation rate
despite Western-imposed sanctions. According to the IMF's semi-annual
World Economic Outlook, Iran's economy will not collapse as a result
of the strong rounds of economic sanctions, even though they are hurting
its oil exports severely. However, much of the IMF analysis is based
on information provided by the Iranian government, which may not be
entirely accurate. Additionally, the report was filed before the Iranian
currency, the rial, plummeted by roughly a third against the dollar
in a mere 10 days through October 2. Nevertheless, IMF experts estimate
that Iranian unemployment will decline next year and that the country
will experience a surplus of 2.4% GDP this year and 1.3% next year.
- In spite of the European Union's inclusion of Iran
on its sanctions list, the German Academic Exchange Service (or Deutscher
Akademischer Austausch Dienst, i.e. DAAD) signed a memorandum of understanding
with Iran's Science, Research, and Technology ministry. DAAD acts
with the approval of Germany's Foreign Ministry, so this latest development
seems to indicate an uneven policy from Berlin vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear
- Iranian chief nuclear scientist Fereydoon Abbasi
admitted to the Arabic daily newspaper Al-Hayat that the
Iranian government has repeatedly in the past provided false information
to international agencies such as the IAEA in order to protect its
nuclear program. Abbasi did not specify the nature of the false information
nor did he say when it had been presented. Accusing foreign intelligence
services, such as Britain's MI6 of spying on Iran's nuclear program,
Abbasi said, "We presented false information sometimes in order
to protect our nuclear position and our achievements, as there is
no other choice but to mislead foreign intelligence ... sometimes
we present a weakness that we do not in fact really have, and sometimes
we appear to have power without having it.”
- Despite sanctions aimed at slowing Iranian progress
to develop nuclear weapons, a report released by the IAEA shows that
Iran added 1,076 centrifuges to their Fordow enrichment facility,
which already had 1,064. Additionally, the Islamic Republic has now
amassed nearly 438 pounds of 20% enriched uranium at both the Fordow
and Natanz plants. At the same time, Iran is sharply increasing
its capability to produce more rapidly the 20% enriched uranium and
to go even higher to the 90%, weapons-grade level.
- The United States extended exemptions from sanctions
on business with Iran to Japan and 10 European countries because they
have significantly reduced their purchases of petroleum from the Islamic
Republic. The US originally granted these 11 nations exemptions from
sanctions in March 2012 as a way of forcing them to reduce their reliance
on Iranian oil. The new extensions will enable banks in Belgium,
Britain, Czech Republic, Frnace, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands,
Poland, Spain and Japan to continue working with Iran without facing
penalties for at least another 180 days.
- Despite what the United States and European Union
call some of the toughest economic sanctions ever imposed, Iran is
still finding legal ways to sell or barter oil to its most important
markets in Asia. To continue selling crude oil to India, Tehran is
accepting payment in rice, medicine, engineering supplies and steel.
To sell to China, the Islamic Republic is delivering the oil
on its own tankers backed by state insurance, not on the commercial
tankers used in the past. And to deliver to Japan, Iran is having
the Japanese furnish the multibillion-dollar marine insurance its
ships need to carry Iranian oil.
- Russia and China joined the four major Western
powers - the U.S., France, Germany and Britain - at an IAEA meeting
to increase diplomatic pressure on Iran regarding its nuclear weapons
program. The six world powers agreed on a draft resolution at the
U.N. nuclear agency that admonishes Iran over its ever-growing uranium
enrichment program and elucidates their preference for a peaceful
resolution to the current dispute.
- The European Union began consideration of a new
round of sanctions against Iran due to its continued drive towards
amassing a nuclear weapons capability. Despite Russian protests
that sanctions have become "extra-territorial" in nature
and are harming its own business interests, EU foreign ministers spoke
of the need to increase pressure on Iran for failing to make progress
in negotations over it nuclear program. French Foreign Minister
Laurent Fabius said, "we consider unacceptable, highly dangerous,
the prospect of Iran possessing nuclear weapons." "Atomic
weapons in Iran are not acceptable," added German Foreign Minister
- Prosecutors in the United States believe they unearthed evidence
in recent international money-transfer investigations that Chinese
banks have flouted Western sanctions against Iran by funnelling
billions of dollars through US and UK branches. The two London-based
banks, HSBC and Standard Chartered, have extensive business in Asia
and executives refused to comment on the allegations.
- Documents obtained by the UK's The Sunday Telegraph in
Quito, Ecuador, reveal that detailed plans were drawn up to establish
substantial banking mechanisms between Ecuador and Iran, even though
they lie 8,000 miles apart and have only the tiniest of trade links.
Thenew financial ties have prompted suspicions that the real intention
is to help Tehran circumvent sanctions by channelling funds through
Quito. "The trading links between the two countries are marginal,
so this new orientation by our government can only be explained
in ideological terms or hidden deals," said Cesar Montufar,
an opposition leader who first helped reveal the Iranian ties last
- Iran began constructing a $300 million anti-aircraft missile
base near the Southern Iranian city of Abadeh; the facility is scheduled
to host 7 battalions, according to at top commander. Furthermore,
Iranian Defense Minister General Ahmad Vahidi said by March 2013,
Iran will commission a new generation of fighter jets, missiles,
unmanned drones and submarines.
- German police arrested four men suspeced of delivering valves
for a heavy water nuclear reactor to Iran, breaking a European embargo
on such exports to the Islamic Republic. "In 2010 and 2011
the suspects are believed to have helped in the delivery of special
valves for the construction of a heavy water reactor in Iran and
therefore to have broken the Iran embargo," prosecutors said
in a statement on Wednesday.
- President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order authorizing
expanded sanctions on Iran through the 2012 National Defense Authorization
Act (NDAA) to make sanctionable the conducting or facilitating of
business with a private of public foreign financial institution
for the purchase of Iranian oil. This sanction is designed
to deter Iran or any other country from establishing payment mechanisms
for the purchase of Iranian oil to circumvent the NDAA sanctions.
Additionally, existing sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical industry
are expanded by making sanctionable significant transactions for
the purchase or acquisition of Iranian petrochemical products.Mark
Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies explains the
timing: “To demonstrate that the administration can be proactive
and not just reactionary on sanctions and to deal with the criticism
that Congress has forced the administration into adopting the most
forceful measures which, after initially rejecting, the administration
is now embracing enthusiastically and touting their efficacy.”
- U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta acknowledged that increasingly
stiff international sanctions have yet to compel Iran to give up
its nuclear ambitions. “These sanctions are having a serious
impact in terms of the economy in Iran,” Panetta told reporters
during a visit in Tunisia. “And while the results of that
may not be obvious at the moment, the fact is that they have expressed
a willingness to negotiate and they continue to seem interested
in trying to find a diplomatic solution,” he said. Panetta
also argued that more pressure eventually would lead Iran to “do
- The International Institute for Strategic Studies released a
report that said sanctions on Iran - specifically those imposed
by the United States since December 2011 and by the United Nations
Security Council since Junee 2010 - have stymied efforts by the
Islamic Republic to develop and produce long-range ballistic missiles
capable of striking potential targets in western Europe and beyond.
The report noted that sanctions have not worked to slow uraniun
enrichment processes or prevented Iran from stockpiling fissile
material, however, without access to the key propellant ingredients
and components needed to produce large solid-propellant rocket motors,
Iran will be halted in its ability to produce the weapons.
- An Israeli legal organization warned British satellite company
Immarsat that it would pursue legal action against the company if
it continued to provide guidance systems to Iranian commerical and
military vehicles. According to the Shurat HaDin, the Ramat
Gan-based legal group, Immarsat continues to provide critical services
to Iran despite sanctions on such business imposed by the United
States and European Union. A letter to Immarsat stated that Shurat
HaDin wrote told the company to stop providing mobile satellites
or risk “civil liability from American citizens or others
who suffer as a result of Iran’s international sponsorship
- The United States imposes additional sanctions on Iran's nuclear
and ballistic missile proliferation networks, aiming to prevent
the Islamic Republic from evading the effects of sanctions by targeting
individuals, companies, and banks that do businesss with Iran.
The Treasury and State Departments designated 11 entities and 4
individuals as part of a network of proliferators headed by Iran’s
Ministry of Defense for Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL) and its
subsidiary, Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO). The new
sanctions also publicly exposed numerous front companies, ships
and banks that work for the government of Iran.
- A list released of German companies conducting bilateral trade
with Iran, including the selling of "dual-use" products,
shows that trade continued unabate between the two countries until
at least the end of calendar year 2011. Merchandize that can be
used for military and civilian purposes falls under the rubric of
“dual-use” goods. Germany is part of the P5+1
who have been making efforts to sanction the Islamic Republic, however
Germany’s Federal Statistical Office said that bilateral trade
with Iran in 2011 totaled nearly 4 billion Euros.
- South Korea announced that it will halt all oil imports from
Iran as a result of the EU ban on insuring shipments of Iranian
crude. South Korea’s government had been in talks with the
EU to extend exemptions for South Korea, which imported about 9
percent of its oil from Iran in 2011, however the EU Council said
exemptions from Iran sanctions will end on July 1 as scheduled.
In 2011, South Korea imported 87 million barrels of Iranian rude,
up 20 percent from 2010.
- The European Union agreed that the oil ban against Iran will
come into force as planned on July 1. Commenting on the move, UK
Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "Today the EU has agreed
that the oil ban against Iran will come into force as planned on
the 1 July. This is an important step and one for which the UK Government
has argued strongly ... these restrictive measures are the toughest
ever adopted against the Iranian Government. They reflect the international
community’s resolve, and our determination, to intensify the
peaceful pressure on Iran until it starts to build confidence that
its nuclear programme is purely peaceful."
- Records released in China showed that the Asian country more
than doubled its imports of Iranian oil during April and May of
2012, a spike that effectively reverses the belief that China was
starting to fall in line with Western efforts to sanction Iran.
Shippers in China, as well, have begun to capitalize on the Western
sanctions, increasing their business with Iran and guaranteeing
the Islamic republic's crude export shipments.
- The IAEA released a report that confirmed Iran is still moving ahead with its uranium enrichment
work in defiance of Security Council resolutions and despite Western
efforts to impose sanctions in order to cut off Iran's nuclear program..
The IAEA report shows than Iran has significantly increased its
production of 3.5% low-enriched uranium (has amassed nearly 750kg
more than what was reported in the previous IAEA report), that it
continues to stock 19.75% low-enriched uranium, and that its IR-1
centrifruge performance is increasing. According to independent
analysis by the Institute for Science and International Security
(ISIS), the report means that Iran has enough enriched uranium to
fill five nuclear bombs if refined much further.
- China imported nearly 390,000 barrels of Iranian oil per day,
a 48% from March 2012, after imports had dropped earlier in the
year. China's imports shows that Beijing remains a steady
customer despite U.S. efforts to tighten sanctions on Tehran.
- The United Kingdom was said to be persuading EU countries to
delay implementation of sanctions against companies providing insurance
to tankers carrying oil from Iran. Britain fears that the ban
on insurance could lead to a dramatic spike in oil prices which
would significantly damage the already weak European economy.
The EU ban, meant to take effect July 1, would prevent European
insurers from covering ships carrying Iranian crude anywhere in
the world in an effort to stem the influx of money to Iran and thus
force it to halt it nuclear program. "Britain will be pushing
the EU to postpone the ban on protection and indemnity insurance
by six month," said one diplomatic source.
- An Oxfam report and data released by the Stockholm International
Peace Research Institute showed that Iran has imported over £350
million worth of weapons over the past three years, despite being
subject to international sanctions. The country's success in "
in tapping the international arms market showed the ineffectiveness
of current restrictions." The UN Security Council, back in
2007, had requested countries to "exercise restraint"
in supplying arms to Iran.
- Switzerland decided against sanctioning Iran's central bank or
imposing an embargo on Iranian oil, failing to follow in the footsteps
of the EU. The Swiss Economics Committee said that the country would
not follow the EU in freezing the assets of the Iranian central
bank "due to its importance for the Iranian economy."
While Switzerland does not directly import Iranian oil, the Swiss
position could impact the activities of oil companies based in the
trading hub of Geneva.
- A survey of Iran's shipping fleet showed that only
seven of its 25 very large crude carriers were operating on-board
transponders, which allow computers to track vessels. Going
"off-radar," Iran is showing another way it is developed
to sidestep international sanctions against the regime. Ships
are obliged by international law to have a satellite tracking device
on board when travelling at sea, but with them turned off it is
increasingly difficult to gauge how much is moving out of the country's
main terminal at Kharg Island.
- An intelligence report released by an independent energy policy
group showed that Greece could become the achilles heal to EU efforts
to cut out all Iranian oil imports. Over the past two years,
Greece's oil imports from Iran have spiked to just under 200,000
barrels per day and Iran's share of Greece's crude imports has more
than doubled (26% to 53%) as other countries have shied away from
the economically unstable Greece. The intelligence report also noted
that Spain and Italy, two other EU member nations, have become increasingly
dependent on Iranian oil imports. These three countries consume
nearly 90% of Iran's total oil exports to the European mainland,
a factor that could eventually lead to the failure of EU sanctions.
- The United States granted exemptions to Japan and ten European
countries from the sanctions passed by President Obama that called
for punitive measures to be taken against any country that continued
doing business with Iran. These eleven nations were given breathing
room on the sanctions because they showed a significant reduction
in their imports of Iranian oil, however by granting the exemptions
the U.S. has underscored the difficulty in fully implementing any
santions meant to freeze the Iranian economy and force them to abandon
their nuclear program.
- Pakistan emerged as an enhanced importer of Iranian oil and has
proceeded with plans to build a natural gas pipeline to the Islamic
Republic, despite warnings from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
that this would interfere with the West's sanctions. “We can’t
afford to be selective where we receive our energy supplies from,”
Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said Thursday. “It
is in our national interest to get energy from wherever we can.”
- The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)
published a study confirming that the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping
Line (IRISL) has renamed nearly a quarter of its shipping fleet
(90 out 123 vessels) in order to evade international sanctions.
Additionally, the company has reflagged many of its ships so that
shippers and maritime security agencies do not know they are moving
Iranian vessels. Additionally, SIPRI noted that Iranian weapons
smugglers are using respectable shipping companies out of Europe
to move illegal weapons into Iran; though this was mostly done without
the consent or knowledge of the companies.
- India, the world's fourth-largest oil consumer, said it would
not take steps to cut oil and petroleum imports from Iran despite
the US and European sanctions. "It is not possible for India
to take any decision to reduce the imports from Iran drastically,
because among the countries which can provide the requirement of
the emerging economies, Iran is an important country amongst them,"
Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said.
- In November 2011, the EU was shown to account
for nearly 20% of all Iranian oil purchases in the first half of
2011, which helped to nullify the effects of any sanctions imposed
against the Islamic regime. Italy, Spain and France were the leading
purchasers of Iranian oil in 2011.
- In August 2011, Iran received 1 billion euros
($ 1.4 billion) from India for overdue oil debts. Indian refiners expect Iran to resume 400,000
barrels a day of oil exports in September 2011, since India began
paying its debt that Iran Deputy Oil Minister Ahmad Qalebani said
amounted to $4.8 billion.
- A January 2011 examination of German government
trade statistics revealed that German export trade to Iran increased
from $4,159,920,000 between January and October 2009 to $4,175,687,000
during the same time period in 2010. Iranian imports to Germany
climbed to $909,176 between January and October 2010 when compared
to $574,261 during the identical time frame in 2009.
- At the start of 2011, Iran was the second largest OPEC exporter, after Saudi Arabia, and during January - November 2010
generated revenues of $64 billion, an $11 billion increase over
the full-year 2009 figure. Iran has also been chosen by OPEC members
for the cartel's 2011 presidency.
- Swiss energy giant EGL
signed a 25-year deal with the National Iranian
Gas Export Company to buy 5.5 billion cubic meters of Iranian
natural gas per year, starting in 2011, for approximately
- A July 2010 AFP report revealed
China has invested an estimated $40 billion in Iran's oil and gas sector. According to Iran's Deputy Oil Minister, “The
volume [of Chinese investment] in upstream projects is 29 billion
dollars.” He also added that China signed contracts worth an
additional $10 billion in petrochemicals, refineries and oil and gas
- In January 2010, a top Russian
arms trade official said Russia still considered Iran a valuable customer
for its weapons and that no international agreements bar Russia from
selling weapons to Tehran. In June 2010, despite the passing of UN
Security Council Resolution 1929, Russia still said sanctions
do not forbid the delivery of S-300 air-defense missiles to Iran.
- As of January 2010, there were
around 1,000 Italian companies active in Iran, including Fiat, Ansaldo,
Eni, Danieli, Duferco, and Maire Tecnimont, which signed a €200
million (~$287 million) gas deal with Iran. Other Italian companies,
such as Carlo Gavazzi Space, have even equipped the regime's military
and contributed to Iran's satellite program.
- From 2000-2010, the U.S. Treasury
Department granted nearly 10,000 special licenses to American companies
so they could sell products in Iran and other countries the U.S. considers
sponsors of terrorism. Most of the licenses were granted under a law
allowing trade in humanitarian goods, though they included products
as diverse as cigarettes and chewing gum.
- Chinese state companies began supplying petrol to Iran in September
2009 and now provide up to one-third of its imports.
- On September 11, 2009, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made clear that Moscow would not
be involved in any new rounds of sanctions against Iran in the UN
Security Council and dismissed a U.S. timetable for securing progress
from Iran on ending its nuclear-fuel program.
- On September 6, 2009, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez sealed an agreement to export 20,000 barrels
per day of gasoline to Iran.
- Between 2000 and 2009, the U.S. government
awarded over $107 billion in contract payments, grants and other
benefits to foreign and multinational American companies engaged
in business with Iran.
- German petrochemical company Basell Polyolefine signed a €825
million trade deal with Iran on June 8, 2009 to
supply technology to build three plants involving synthetic and
- On June 3, 2009, Iran signed a $4.7 billion
contract with the Chinese National Petroleum Company to develop
part of South Pars, the world's largest reservoir of gas that is
shared by Iran and Qatar.
- Between January and July 2009, trade between
the 27 European Union countries and Iran amounted to some €10
billion (about $14 billion).
- On December 2, 2008, Malaysia signed a $14 billion deal with Iran for the construction of two
natural gas liquification plants as well as two gas fields. The
two countries signed a multi-billion dollar gas deal in 2007.
- Iranian students study abroad in Germany, France, Canada, Australia and the United
Kingdom. The Association of American Universities is seeking
to pave the way for a bilateral education program with Iran. University
presidents from Carnegie Mellon, Rice, Maryland and Cornell, Florida
and UC Davis visited Tehran in November 2008 with
the blessing of the U.S. State Department to discuss student exchange
Russia's trade relationship with Iran directly ignores the Security Council Resolution. In August
2008, the Russian oil corporation, Gazprom, signed a multi-billion
dollar deal to help Iran cultivate its oil and gas fields. French
and Japanese oil companies were candidates at one point, but dropped
out of dealings with Iran because of international pressure. Russia has also been building a nuclear plant in Iran, which is now expected
to begin operating in 2009.
- On November 27, 2008, German and Iranian business leaders began a conference in Hamburg called
“Iran Sanctions: Practical Consequence for German Firms.”
The purpose of the conference was to improve German business relations
in Iran as well as the German and Iranian political relationship.
- In August, 2008, a German corporation signed a $150 million deal with Iran to build natural
gas liquification plants in the country. The German Economics Ministry
maintains that the trading of natural gas to Iran does not violate Security
Council Resolution 1737.
- Germany's Federal Statistical Office released data showing exports
to Iran increased 10 percent
over the first three quarters of 2008. Germany's
exports to Iran are expected to total 4 million euros this year,
close to the record it set in 2004 and 2005. During the first seven
months of 2008, the German government approved 1,926 transactions
with Iran, a 63 percent increase over last year. This has further
cemented Germany's position as Iran's largest trade partner.
- Even the United States has engaged in trade with Iran. According
to the Department of Agriculture, Iran has bought more than one
million tons of wheat from the United States since the beginning
of the 2008-9 crop season.
- In January 2008, Iran and Italy’s electric company, Edison International, signed an oil exploration
deal for $107 million.
- In April 2007, Austrian oil company OMV signed
a 22 billion euro agreement to produce liquefied natural gas from
Iran's South Pars gas field.
- Turkey has maintained trade ties with Iran.
In 2005, bilateral trade between Iran and Turkey
equaled $4 billion, a figure expected to grow to $10 billion in
2008. Iran and Turkey have agreed to continue their relationship
and hope to increase their bilateral trade revenue to $20 billion
- China has also increased its volume of trade with Iran.
Between 2000 and 2005, the amount of Chinese imports
into Iran increased by 360%. Iran’s Deputy Minister of Commerce,
Mehdi Ghazanfari, predicts that exchanges between Iran and China
for the year 2008 will total $25 billion. China also negotiated
a $16 billion deal to develop Iran’s northern Pars gas field.
- Iran retains strong relations with Pakistan and is working on a “peace pipe” that would transfer
natural gas between Iran, Pakistan and India.
- Iran is the United Arab Emirates’
largest non-oil trading partner.
- Oman and Bahrain have been negotiating with Iran to buy natural gas.
- Smugglers in Oman have taken advantage of their close proximity
to Iran and have been able to ship needed cargo and goods to Iran,
helping the Islamic regime obtain goods that have been sanctioned
for sale from the west.
- The Persian Gulf Cooperation Council decided to consider a Free
Trade Agreement with Iran. The agreement will lead to economic benefits
for the UAE, Saudi
Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait.
- Austria's third-largest bank, Raiffeisen Zentralbank, remains
active in Iran and has
absorbed the transactions of other major European banks that shut
down their operations in Iran.
- German engineering
firm Aerzen secured a 21 million euro contract to supply a steel
factory in Esfaham, Iran.
- Treasure Capital Bank, based in Minsk, Belarus, is the subsidiary
of Bank Tejerat in Iran, sanctioned by the United States in January
All of the aforementioned nations maintain that they
are not violating Security
Council Resolution 1737. Trading with Iran and importing goods from
the country cannot, the countries claim, contribute to Iran's threat
of creating a nuclear bomb. Any investment in Iran, however, bolsters
its economy and provides revenues that can directly or indirectly (by
freeing up other resources) be used for nuclear weapons development.
Iran might not be discouraged from its goal of producing
nuclear weapons by total compliance of all nations with existing sanctions,
or even stricter sanctions, but it is evident that the present weak,
unenforceable and widely ignored policy has not had the desired effect.
- AFP (August
25, 2008); (September
8, 2009); (September
- Bloomberg (November
- CNBC (August
- Commentary Magazine (October
- Der Spiegel (January
- The Diplomat (June
- Financial Times (September
- Fox News(March
- The Guardian (August
- Gulf in the Media (January
22, 2011), (August
- Haaretz (March
- International Business Times (April
- International Institute for Strategic Studies (July
- Jerusalem Post (June
11, 2009), (Jan
28, 2010), (June
10, 2010), (July
31, 2010), (Jan
9, 2011); (Jan
30, 2012); (April
18, 2012); (July
- The Jewish Journal (July
- Los Angeles Times, (December
6, 2008); (September
- New York Times (March
6, 2010), (December
23, 2010); (September
- Reuters (Nov
27, 2008); (Dec
9, 2008); (Nov
24, 2011); (April
13, 2012), (April
22, 2012), (May
9, 2012); (May
26, 2012); (Sept
12, 2012); (October
- The U.S. State Department (November
- The Telegraph (May
3, 2012); (August
- The Times of Israel (July
25, 2012); (August
21, 2012); (October
- The Wall Street Journal (Feb
6, 2009); (Sept
11, 2009); (Jan
14, 2010); (Jan
23, 2012); (May
- The Washington Times (June
- The Washington Post (June
26, 2012); (July
30, 2012); (August
- UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office (June
- Washington Institute for Near East Policy (January
- Washington Post (January
24, 2012); (March
1, 2012); (September 11, 2012)
- Xinhua News (September
- Ynet (January